The squabble surrounding San Antonio televangelist John Hagee’s endorsement of Republican presidential hopeful John McCain reminds me of why there should be less religion in politics — incendiary faith is the opposite of consensus building.
McCain has said that he is proud to be associated with Hagee. This must be in part because McCain’s strategists think he needs to burnish his evangelical credentials and Hagee’s vote, along with his 19,000-member strong congregation, is just the solution.
Thing is, this country is big. Real big. And you need to bring together a lot of people to vote for you if you want to be president. That may be a little harder for McCain to accomplish thanks to his association with Hagee, who in recent years has offended many, including but not limited to Catholics, homosexuals, Muslims and Harry Potter-author J.K. Rowling. He has suggested that Hurricane Katrina was God’s wrath for the city’s “gay parade” and he has called the Roman Catholic Church a “false cult system.”
One of the reasons I love this country so much is that this gentleman gets to say whatever he believes. So you know, as we can see here on this video, he’s free to get excited in front of an incredibly elaborate GIGANTIC wall chart with his pointer and talk about why he loves the Book of Revelation and end times blood shed and gets to call the Catholic Church “the great whore” and “the apostate Church.” That’s his right.
(Hagee put out a statement yesterday, saying in part that “I have always had great love for Catholic people and great respect for the Catholic Church. My wife comes from a Catholic family and millions of my viewers are Catholics. I am shocked and saddened to learn of the mischaracterization of my views on Catholics.” He did not say however what that mischaracterization was or repudiate his statements on the video.)
Where things get uncomfortable is when Hagee is grinning on stage next to McCain, who could lead this diverse country and directly affect the lives of said Catholics, gays and Muslims. Obama faced this same question of a divisive friendship last week when he said he would reject the endorsement of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
McCain for his part has said he won’t reject Hagee’s endorsement but that “in no way did I intend for his endorsement to suggest that I in turn agree with all of Pastor Hagee’s views, which I obviously do not.”
Now, it is one thing for McCain to alienate the Catholic leaders who have called for him to change his tune on Hagee and risk losing the support of American Catholics who make up as much as a quarter of voters. But if that doesn’t scare him, Hagee’s views on the Harry Potter books should: Hagee has called them “witchcraft” and suggested that they “desensitize readers and introduce them to the occult.” According to my own casual statistical research about 99.9 percent of Americans are fans of the Harry Potter. If I were McCain, I’d start building consensus there.